Annie's Mailbox: Don't bring me down
Dear Annie: My best friend calls me every morning to tell me how depressed she is with life. She goes on and on complaining about her kids, her husband and her house. She always is sad and negative. I try talking to her about what might make her happier – maybe going back to school or getting a part-time job. She’s been this way for years now.
Then, a year ago, her mother took her own life, and my friend really went downhill, as you can imagine. Her sadness is so crippling she’s basically unable to function as a mother or wife. Her husband is concerned but seems sort of at a loss. I really want to be a sympathetic friend because I care about her very much. But her constant state of depression is beginning to bring me down.
If this had just started after her mom’s death, I would feel more hopeful that I could help her work through her grief and she’d bounce back in time. But I see no light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t want to avoid her phone calls, especially because I feel somewhat responsible for her mental health at this point. I believe she’d be really crushed if she thought she’d lost a best friend, too. Yet I can’t keep listening to this sadness every morning. – Torn and Confused Friend
Dear Torn: It sounds as if your friend has been suffering from serious depression for some time now, compounded by the tragic death of her mother. You love her, but you cannot be a dumping ground for all of her daily problems – not only because your own mental health will suffer but also because you’re not qualified to deal with this.
Speak with her husband about getting her into therapy, and visit MentalHealth.gov for resources. Depression is a disease, and it requires professional treatment. Just as you wouldn’t attempt to manage a friend’s diabetes, it would be reckless for you to try to cure your friend of her mental illness.
Dear Annie: Three years ago, my husband left me. I was eight months pregnant with our third baby boy, and he told me he had fallen in love with someone from his office and was leaving me. He confessed that he had been having an affair with her for over a year. I was devastated and shocked at first.
I felt a deep sense of betrayal.
Three years went by, and I was reluctant to date. Finally, my best friend set me up with a really nice guy. We are both in our early 40s and have been dating for over two years. He’s also divorced (his ex-wife cheated on him, too), but he is still so open and trusting and has helped restore my faith in relationships.
Yesterday he asked me to marry him. I said yes but am feeling very scared of marriage, given my first husband. He is a great guy, and my kids adore him. I don’t want to put him off, but I’m scared. – Terrified of Marriage
Dear Terrified: Don’t let one louse decide the course of your life. What your ex-husband did was terrible. But that was in the past, and this new man has shown you he’s nothing like the old.
Next time you get into your car, look at the rearview mirror and see how small it is. That should be how you view the past. Now look at the front windshield – huge and filled with beautiful possibilities. Tell him yes.
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